What is the "American Dream" in The Great Gatsby? Where did the concept originate and how it changed over the centuries?
The American Dream has come to be defined in a number of different ways, but among the various defining concepts are those protected by the Declaration of Independence:
All men are . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
While America began as a haven for religious freedom, it soon offered economic opportunity, as it became known as a place where a person could rise from poverty to riches. Historian James Truslow Adams, the man who coined the phrase "the American Dream," defined the dream in his book Epic of America:
The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.
Certainly, Jay Gatsby of the novel The Great Gatsby pursues the goal of a better, richer, and fuller life in the hope of recapturing his earlier romantic vision of life with Daisy. However, Gatsby confuses material wealth with morality. It is this confusion of values which Gatsby and others have that brings about the loss of true morality and genuine love.
A clear example of this false vision and confusion of values exists in the characterization of Myrtle Wilson, who intertwines love and morality with economic wealth and its value. This entanglement of moral values with economic success later results in the loss of her individuality and, eventually, her life.
The American Dream has been around since people first set foot on the continent, in a way. America has always been the land of opportunity. When the westward expansion began to take place, the idea of Manifest Destiny meant that people believed that they could have what they wanted.
The "American Dream" in The Great Gatsby is coming from poor and becoming rich. This is what Gatsby did. Even though he was "new money" and was not respected by the "old money" he still made his life and reached his goals, excluding Daisy as a goal, of course. I believe the concept of this "dream" originated in the colonists that came here from England. Wanting to own your own land, and have money has always been the dream. Its called the "American Dream" because we are the "Land of Opportunity". This dream is featured as a theme in many modernists novels. Another great example of this is Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. Both The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men show the emptiness and the disbelief in the "American Dream".